MANATEE — Only a few churches and local religious groups seem to be planning services pertaining to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
But that doesn’t mean the impact of the spill on wildlife and people is not on the minds of the majority of local lay and clergy members.
A good example might be the Rev. Everett P. Walk, of Sarasota’s St. Margaret of Scotland Episcopal Church, who recently called Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium with an offer of volunteers to clean birds if needed, only to be politely turned down.
Only trained professionals will be handling the birds should the oil spill hit locally, Walk was told.
“I had this idea of getting all the youth groups in Sarasota and Manatee counties together and I called Mote, but they were hesitant because of the toxicity of the oil,” Walk said.
Prayer is the main role right now, he said.
“I think that’s about all we can do at this point,” Walk said.
Churches are inviting congregations to pray in their own way for the Gulf of Mexico, said Jim Dela, a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida.
“We have a ‘prayers of the people’ portion of our services and that is where these prayers for the Gulf are being heard,” Dela said.
Local Catholic churches are also offering special extra prayers as part of their prayers for the faithful, said Bob Reddy, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Venice.
“They are praying that nothing hits us here and, if it does, that the cleanup goes well,” Reddy said.
Rabbi Mendy Bukiet, of Chabad of Bradenton, said there is nothing specifically in the Jewish holy book, the Torah, to bless a body of water, but the holy book does talk about rolling up one’s sleeves when there’s a job to be done.
Bukiet is advocating, at least in this situation, less prayer and more elbow grease.
“God wants us to take care of the world,” Bukiet said. “Prayers should not replace doing and fixing of the problem.”
The Rev. Kathy Gilpin, Walk’s colleague at St. Margaret Episcopal Church, agrees with Bukiet. She is a member of her diocese’s “Green Team,” a group of about 10 leaders from all over the diocese who strive to keep environmental issues before church members.
“I guess what is left to us as a group is to go down and clean the beaches if oil clumps and pray they are able to cap that thing,” Gilpin said.
A religious group that has planned a dedicated service to the spill is Bradenton’s Manatee Spiritual Center — A Science of Mind Community.
The center will hold a water blessing service on Manatee Public Beach at the western tip of Manatee Avenue West at 8 a.m. today.
The group expects 25 to 35 to meet near the lifeguard stand in front of Cafe on the Beach.
The service will include a section honoring the elements of earth, wind, fire, wood and metal.
One hopeful by-product of the blessing is to disperse the anger that has built up since the spill, said the Rev. Denise Oyler, who will conduct the service.
“Our belief system is that if we come at this from a state of fear or anger, it fuels more fear and anger,” Oyler said Friday. “We believe we have the ability to balance what is going on and our energy is capable of healing.”
The service is open to anyone and people can voice a positive affirmation, Oyler added.
Unity Church in Venice would like other area churches to join them at 3 p.m. June 20 for a focused prayer service for the Gulf.
A special prayer has been created to help clear toxins from the water, church officials said.
The prayer has been created by Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto, who says people can express love and gratitude to all living creatures in the Gulf in a prayer.
His prayer goes: “To whales, dolphins, manatees, pelicans, seagulls and all aquatic bird species, fishes, shellfish, plankton, corals, algae and all other creatures in the Gulf of Mexico, I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.